Relegation meant to lighten Carter's workload
Todd Blackadder's plan to rejuvenate Dan Carter has resulted in the playmaker losing the Crusaders vice-captain's job.
The removal of Carter from the deputy's role means the Crusaders will field a revamped leadership for their Super Rugby campaign when it begins against the Blues in Auckland on March 1.
Kieran Read will captain the side in the absence of Richie McCaw, who has been granted leave until early July, while George Whitelock and Ryan Crotty will share the vice-captain's responsibilities.
Coach Blackadder's decision to strip Carter of the vice-captaincy can be viewed as either a gamble or clever innovation.
The only certainty is that the Crusaders need Carter at his optimum if they are to win the title for the first time since 2008.
Considering his experience as the All Blacks first five-eighth - he has been their deputy since 2011 and played 94 tests - Carter's demotion is sure to create ripples around the rugby circuit.
Blackadder was adamant Carter was happy to step aside from the role to let Whitelock and Crotty shoulder more responsibility.
"He (Carter) has taken it really well. If anything we are just wanting to unburden 'DC' a little bit," Blackadder said.
"A lesson learned from the past is that when you have got guys in the All Blacks leadership roles, and they have that added responsibility, it just doesn't stop when they leave the field.
"It is constant. They are having a lot of leadership meetings which are a distraction. We just want them to come back to the Crusaders and play well rather than have the expectation that they have to lead."
Carter's personal life is also expected to get more hectic with his wife, Honor, expecting their first child in April. The pair live in Auckland.
Blackadder is no doubt mindful of what happened last year when the physically drained All Blacks returned from the June tests and struggled with the Crusaders.
Having Whitelock and Crotty, who are unlikely to feature for the All Blacks in June, in a refreshed state following the month-long break no doubt appeals to Blackadder.
Read is expected to captain the All Blacks against France and Carter is likely to continue as his lieutenant.
Relieving Carter of the vice-captaincy also gives the first-five the option of skipping some off-field jobs the Crusaders.
"He probably won't go to as many leadership meetings but he will contribute in other ways," Blackadder said.
"And that is because he wants to - not because he has to. And there is a real difference there."
Meanwhile, Blackadder has remained in contact with wing Zac Guildford, who is still on indefinite leave from the Crusaders while he undergoes counselling after last month's alcohol-related incident.
Blackadder said he was still uncertain whether Guildford would be available this season. The New Zealand Rugby Union is yet to confirm when a misconduct hearing will be staged.
"I have been in touch with Zac quite a bit through text messaging and can tell through what he is saying it (his rehabilitation) is having a huge impact on him ...
"If what come out of this is that the guy can come back to play, that would be fantastic. But there are a lot of things that have to happen before that.
"The NZRU are the people he has to front up to ... But the Crusaders would love to have Zac Guildford back as a new man with a clean slate."